Gymnasts get a lift at Jamboree


Published: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 12:37 a.m.
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Florida sophomore Breanna King competes on the balance beam against Nebraska.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
It was Country Jamboree night Friday evening in the O'Connell Center. And Florida's gymnastics team had themselves one heck of a hoedown.
On a night when a local country radio station passed out free cowboy hats at the door, it was the judges who passed Florida its top score of the season.
The 10th-ranked Gators topped No. 19 Nebraska 196.950 to 196.675 before an O'Dome crowd of 3,748. The victory was a welcome one for Florida. The Gators came out on top of a meet for the first time this season. Florida finished second at the Super Six Challenge on Jan. 7 and lost by just .075 point in its first dual meet of the year last weekend at No. 20 LSU.
"It really is a lift," coach Rhonda Faehn said. "It shows that what we've been working on in practice paid off."
Florida continues to improve after increasing the skill level of its routines prior to the season. The Gators' team scores have increased in each of their first three meets, from a 194.450 to a 195.550 to Friday's 196.950.
Sophomore Samantha Lutz said one key has been the team showing a higher level on confidence in their routines.
"Looking confident was key for us tonight," Lutz said. "We looked comfortable."
It was Lutz's confidence on floor that pushed the Gators to victory. Ahead by just .150 heading into the final rotation, Lutz delivered a crowd-pleasing 9.900 on her floor routine, which essentially sealed the win. It was her first floor routine of the season because of a bruised heel suffered during the season opener. But her effort was enough to share the floor title with Nebraska's Emily Parsons and Richelle Simpson.
"One of the reasons we put Sam on floor was because she is such a performer," Faehn said.
Lutz also captured a share of the bars title with a 9.900, tying Kristi Esposito and Desire Sniatynski of Nebraska.
Florida sophomore Breanne King won the beam title with a 9.950. Gators sophomore Katie Rue finished second to Simpson in the all-around (39.350) in just her second all-around performance. Simpson, the 2003 NCAA all-around champion, captured that title with a 39.650.
The Gators, meanwhile, recorded their highest bars (49.350) and beam (49.375) scores of the season while their 49.225 on floor was tied for their season best. Florida scored a 49.000 on vault, their second highest score of the season.
"I think we showed a lot more confidence," King said. "As the season goes on, we'll be even more confidence."
Faehn added that the performance will give the Gators momentum heading Friday's competition with No. 3 Alabama in the O'Connell Center. But there is still a lot of fine tuning to be done.
"We still have a ways to go," Faehn said. "But tonight was a step up."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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